Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, a beautiful, smart, and funny young woman went on a blind date with an attractive, intelligent gent who also happened to be semi-humorless. On her side, there were no sparks. However, due to a certain upbringing, she was by nature (or nurture?) a pleaser. Hence, she laughed at his jokes, complimented his bow tie, and let him place his hand on the small of her back. Ok, she did more than just that; they made out passionately because she felt too polite to say no after he bought her all those fancy cocktails. He walked away from the date thinking that not only would there be a second one, but also that, on the next go-around, there might even be more action than just teenage-style necking.
You see, this guy thought he and the girl had so much in common. He thought she loved J.D. Salinger, Billy Joel, and the movie Point Break just as much as he did. He thought she found his relationship with his sister and mother to be a complex but realistic part of his layered psyche—just like he did! Unfortunately, none of this was true. She was nothing more or less than a liar—idiotically nodding along “yes” to everything throughout the whole date.
Dear reader, to be fair, I am this woman. I have developed a weird and possibly hurtful habit that I now must confess to you: no matter who I'm on a date with, I become exactly who they want me to be. Even (let's be honest, especially) when I don’t like them romantically. I'm like a boyfriend chameleon. I find myself saying stupid things like, “OMG, you like cheese? Turns out I love cheese!” Once when I was out with a history buff, I winced as I heard myself say how sexy I thought Civil War cannons were.
Let me cut myself some slack here. I have liked pretty much all of the people I've gone out with. I just haven’t felt any sort of romantic surge with them. I like people. I like hearing about their backgrounds, and speculating about their futures. I have found that I could spend several hours talking to each of these dudes while getting slightly inebriated without feeling bored to tears. The topic of conversations have ranged from Henry VI part III, to the scariness factor of the horror movie Suspiria. (I think it's terrifying despite the camp factor). I have waxed poetic about David Foster Wallace, and about the pros and cons of pet sitting. Yet, I never seem to have the courage to let it end there. I almost always end up making out with everyone I date, even though I know there won't be a second rendezvous in our future.
I know I’m making myself look really bad here, and that’s part of why I’m writing this. Most of the time I'm lamenting as to why the guy didn’t call or text me after we had such a good time. Could the real reason be he was pretending the same way I pretend? God forbid.
Recently someone called me on this, and sent me a text that said:
Hey, we had a great time, and you acted as though you really liked me back. So what gives about you not answering any of my messages?
I was blown away by this guy's directness. I was so refreshed to hear from someone who was brave enough to confront me, I almost went on a second date with him.
Instead, I just sent him a text back:
Yeah, we had a great time. And I'm sorry about leading you on, but I don't think there's any spark between us.
Fair enough, pretty lady.
That was it. Simple. Easy. Adult. Again, I was so taken aback by his mature texting, I was very close to saying, “The hell with this, let's get drunk and make out.” Thankfully, I decided to take a page from his book, and try to act a little more grown up. I refrained with a grace I never knew I had.
Outside of my dating life, I think I'm a pretty upfront person, with a healthy “I don't like everyone, so why should everyone like me” type of attitude. But, personal rejection feels so complicated. I can't face up to it — no matter if it's me getting dumped or doing the dumping.
What really shocked me though, was that when that dude stood up to me, I respected him more for it. Wouldn't we all be happier daters if we were more honest? Myself included. So here’s the deal: I can’t predict that anyone will give me the benefit of sending me an “I don’t really like you” text, voicemail, or even email. Which I think we can all agree on is better than nothing, no matter how unfortunate. But I can say I’m going to more disciplined about doing these things myself, if not for any other reason than because it's the kind thing to do. So, I'm putting my big girl pants on, and I'm making you the promise that I'll be upfront about how much I hate Bukowski.
Follow Lacy Warner on twitter @laceoface